QOTD Update / COAL: 2000 Toyota Yaris Verso – Europe Beater

In a previous post (link here), I mentioned I would be living in Europe (specifically Germany) for 6 months, and that I was thinking of getting a car for traveling with my family during these months. A 2.500 Euro limit and the need to carry 4 persons were my only conditions. There were, of course, many alternatives, and the CC commentariat gave me really interesting ideas (besides buying a car) I seriously considered. One of them was taking a short term lease, or a long term car rental. But none of these possibilities was within my budget. But this was.

Another commenter gave me detailed advice about taxes, insurance, and the most popular car portals: mobile.de and autoscout24.de, where I found a huge number of interesting cars. Among the car alternatives, many commenters recommended I should buy what locals buy: cars like the VW Passat, Skoda Octavia, a Volvo (V40, V70), an older Mercedes etc. I made a local search and “pre-selected” several cars within my budget: mostly station wagons from European and Japanese car makers that I found to be “special” or, at least, interesting to own or not available at home.

I found the Octava Kombi very interesting, but no good candidates were in my area. I went to take a look at a V40 Volvo, but the head gasket repair kit in the trunk made me feel uncomfortable.

Then I started to take a look at small Japanese and European 5-seater “Mini-minivans” like the Citroen Xsara Picasso, Renault Scenic, Mitsubishi Space Star, Nissan Almera Tino, Daihatsu Gran Move, Suzuki Liana and the Toyota Yaris Verso. These are considered as “minivans” in Europe and have become quite popular. I found out that interior space was even better than a station wagon and that the shorter overall length would be a nice thing when searching for a parking spot in Berlin.

Between European (mainly French) and Japanese candidates, I thought Japanese reliability wouldn’t be a bad thing for such an old car. I have had good and bad experiences with French cars: good experiences with newer ones, and bad experiences with older ones (expensive repairs). Well, you know from the title of this post where this is going to end.

I found out that buying an already registered car (from a private person) would get me faster into actually driving it, since local vehicle registration offices are completely collapsed and were giving appointments in 4 weeks. Buying from a dealer meant I would have to buy and wait 4 weeks to get my plates. Buying a registered car would mean that, with an own insurance (which is done easily), I would be able to drive it with the plates from the previous owner for these 4 weeks (provided the owner agreed). That reduced choices, but I searched and searched until I found a candidate that ticked all boxes: A Toyota Yaris Verso, manual transmission, basic version, for 1100 EUR. This was the first time I considered a car that, from its looks, didn’t appeal to me at all. But that was about to change.

I talked to the owner and arranged a visit. A few hours later he called back and told me his wife wanted to keep the car… (no comments).

One day later, I found another Yaris Verso nearby. Green, manual, and as basic as it can get. He mentioned the exhaust pipe should be repaired and was asking only 700 EUR for that reason. The whole buying experience was quite simple (one shouldn’t expect much more for such a short period and cheap car): Rust: check, but not too bad. Paint: not nice, but OK. Winter tires included: check. Engine: loud (remember the exhaust detail?), but dry and healthy. Clutch/transmission: what? it’s an automatic? that’s not what the announcement said! I thought that searching longer wasn’t something I wanted to do now (there were more important things to do!), so I decided this would be OK too. BTW, my wife wasn’t so pleased. She has always driven manual, and didn’t like automatic transmissions. But I insisted, and made a comparison to bicycles: with or without gears, is there so much a difference driving them? (I know this argument only works in one direction, since many automatic transmission drivers just can’t get used to a manual, but in this case my argument worked out!).

The deal was struck and we took our loud and ugly square frog for a loud ride. I got the exhaust repaired for 30 EUR the same day and the car has given us about 2000 trouble free kms in the last weeks. We added “road assistance” as an extra to our insurance and I have a car sharing membership, you know, just in case…

Now about the car itself: the underpinnings are probably well-known to most of you: it shares the same platform and the same wheelbase with Paul’s Scion xB, that means many aspects from Paul’s article about his xB apply to the Yaris Verso as well. I think it even shares the same engines with the japanese xB (bB). Mine has a 1.3 VVT engine with 86 HP. I’m perfectly fine with it, and it allows cruising the Authobahn at 140km/h with no problems (not silently, though). The car is closely related to the first-gen Toyota Yaris and was called Yaris Verso in Europe and Fun Cargo in Japan. As I mentioned previously, the looks of the car are… “Gewöhnungsbedürftig” (a nice german word that means something like “Something you have to get used to”). It’s a mix of square and rounded lines, small wheels, a frog-like fascia and a weird digital, lens-augmented, centrally-mounted instrument panel. But, in the meantime, I’m starting to like it just for being so different to all cars I’ve had before.

These both are closely related.

But the real revelation to me is the interior: it is amazing how 3890mm of car can be so large and so practical. And then there’s that huge rear window, making parking the easiest think you could imagine. But back to the interior: a flat floor. What is a flat floor? In many cars, you get a flat floor when you fold the rear seats. But the height of the cargo compartment is limited by the presence of the folded seats. The Yaris Verso folds the rear seats below a  false floor just behind/below the front seats. What you get is a huge, flat and very tall cargo space. My bike, for example (a big and long 28″ city bike) can be carried upright (and with 4 passengers!). And there’s the seating: each rear seat is independent.

This is the interior, in 4-seater configuration to carry my bike.

But maybe the best way to explain all this is to take a look at these incredible Japanese ads:

A “Big & Tall cabin”. Yeah, that’s right. Note the seat folding drawings

A japanese living room on wheels

Or maybe the best thing to just take a look at these TV-ads:

Or, to get an even more clear idea of what kind of clientele Toyota designers were thinking about when they designed this little car, here you can take a look of two real-life user representations they prepared during the design process 😉

I‘ll know better when I finish my staying in Germany but, until now, I have a good feeling about my choice. And if something goes wrong, I still have the remaining budget to get another one or to finally be rational and rent a car when I need it!

Thanks again to all contributors for their advice. When I get back home (to Chile), I will also need a new car (well, not new, but “newer”), maybe that’s something for another QOTD in the future…